The Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging residents to not dump aquarium fish species that are used as pets into the state’s waterways.
Joe Jerek, news services coordinator, said the conservation department has received numerous reports of people pouring the contents of aquariums used for pet species and tropical fish into public waterways.
Department staff recently learned of a blue-colored African cichlid caught from a lake near Moberly, Missouri. There has also been cases of species found across the state such as a South American catfish, koi, Chinese mystery snails and a red-tailed shark.
Jerek said those that dump the fish often view their action as a kindhearted solution to unforeseen fish-care problems. However, the introduction of invasive species can quickly disrupt the ecosystem by creating changes that native wildlife are not able to combat.
He said it is illegal to dump invasive fish species into lakes and reservoirs.
Jerek said even though the nearest pond or lake is not a viable alternative for dumping fish, there are options where they can be housed. In some cases, a pet store will take back a problem fish.
In addition, pet owners could consider a local or state aquarium club. The members often look to buy, sell, trade or give-away fish and aquarium products.
Jerek said when aquarium species are placed in local waters, it can harm bass and crappie fishing in the area.
He said there are also concerns that disease could be spread from one species to another. For example, African clawed frogs are popular aquarium pets that can carry the Chytrid fungus. This can be fatal to hellbenders which is a Missouri amphibian that is listed as state endangered.
Branson said when the contents of an aquarium are transferred to the nearest pond or stream, exotic aquatic animals aren’t the only concern. A once-popular aquarium plant called hydrilla has been found in several ponds in Greene County. In other states where hydrilla has become established, the plant can interfere with the operation of recreational boat motors and it can clog municipal water intake devices for nearby communities.
Before purchasing a fish, buyers are asked to consider how big the fish will eventually become, the cost of properly housing and maintaining the fish along with the temperament and compatibility of new fish with other species in the tank.